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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Making Shamrock cookies: you don't "need" a special cookie cutter

Just a reminder, there's a giveaway still going on through Sunday, midnight PST, right over here. It's open to everyone, no restrictions. So hop on over and enter!

I also want to just say a big thanks to everyone who gave me ideas on how to dress myself properly on Tuesday's post. I really appreciate your suggestions. While I can't guarantee that I won't ever slip back into my holey sweats and frayed tee shirts, I am giving more thought to how I dress myself for around the house. This could take me a while -- baby steps!

So, onward and upward, right?!

Being March, with St. Patrick's Day nearly upon us, and having 2 Irish lasses of our own under our roof (my twin daughters' birthday is March 17, so we say they are honorary Irish), just what kind of cookies could I possibly make? Shamrock cookies, of course!

Many people think that gingerbread cookies are just for Christmas. But in our home, gingerbread is an any month sort of cookie. Not too sweet or rich, it's one of my favorites with a hot cup of either tea or coffee. And it's well suited to cutting into fancy shapes. I happen to have a shamrock cookie cutter. But you can make shamrocks or any other shape you desire, without a special cutter.

A few years ago, we were housesitting for my sister in So. California  (I know, rough job in winter, but we like to do our share to help someone out). It was just before Christmas and I wanted to leave her family a treat for their return. I thought to make gingerbread men, but couldn't find a gingerbread man cookie cutter in her kitchen. What to do! What to do! Then I remembered reading Tasha Tudor's Christmas book and how she talked about making gingerbread cookies free-hand. She cut these beautiful animals of all sorts, from her gingerbread dough, using nothing more than a paring knife.

outline of a shamrock -- you can enlarge, as needed,
 and print out to cut and use as a template

I didn't quite trust my free-hand abilities, so I did what I considered the next best thing. I drew and cut out a simple gingerbread man shape from a brown paper shopping bag. This would be my template. I laid this pattern on lightly floured, rolled-out dough (the light dusting of flour keeps the pattern from sticking to the dough). I used a paring knife to cut around the pattern. And voila! Gingerbread men cut-outs ready to bake.

cutting with a small knife is a little slower than using cutters,
but can be a fun activity with the family

So, if you're in the mood to make shamrock (or any other shaped) sugar or gingerbread cookies (any rolled out dough will work as non-perfectly perfect as can be), you can make a template, instead of using a cutter.

I find it easier to cut all my cookies, remove the remaining dough
 that surrounds them, and then lift the cookies

Simply draw or find a picture of a shamrock (enlarge if needed). Cut this out, and use as a template for cutting your cookies. I'll include a photo of our shamrock outline in this post, in case you just want to enlarge and print it out, and use as your template.

I trim any imperfections with a knife and I'm good to go

Older kids could help with the cutting. You could have a couple of templates in use at a time, to speed this up. Younger kids could help with buttering a baking sheet, or lifting cut shamrocks from the counter and onto the baking sheet.

So there you go. Next time you want to make some cookies in a shape that you haven't a cutter for, just draw and cut a template. It's the no-clutter cutter.


  1. Poor you having to house sit. :-)

    These look great. I have to admit I'm not big on making shaped cookies...too lazy I

    However, using this method I could keep the shapes simple and that might improve my success rate.

    1. Hi Shara,
      You couldn't be anything close to lazy! You get more done in the first few hours of the day than I do in entire days, often! But I do think that some things are just not "our thing". For me, I dislike some small, fiddly work. Too much for my nerves and clumsy fingers.

      Yeah, that house sitting job, in the California sun, it was tough work. But I'm a giver that way! :-)

  2. The first cookie cutter I ever bought was a shamrock. Ward and I were dating and both in grad school. He defended his thesis on St. Patrick's Day and I made shamrock cookies for the event. Both his thesis defense and the cookies turned out well.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      What a very sweet thing you did for your to-be husband! I'm sure that every time he sees shamrock cookies now, he remembers.

    2. I just asked my husband what he thinks of when he sees sugar cookies or shamrock shaped cookies and he said, "Nothing." Then I reminded him of the above story and I still didn't get much response. We're all programmed to remember different things. He remembers more of the questions he got asked. He was defending he thesis after all.

    3. Well, whether he remembers or not, it was still a very sweet thing you did. And I guess I can understand how his day must have gone then.

  3. Lili!

    This is a great idea and tutorial-so many times I have decided to make a certain shape cookie to discover I do not have the right cookie cutter-I never thought of making a template! Thank you for sharing with all of us!!

    Have a great weekend!!

    1. Hi Jemma,
      Thank you! My guess is this has been done by many, many women before us. It is freeing to know that I can make cookies in any shape that I want, regardless of what cutters I happen to have available.

      Hope you're enjoying your weekend, as well!

  4. My mom always made a cookie box out of gingerbread at Christmas for my teachers. She would cut out BIG gingerbread men and women from a cardboard template she had and then would decorate them with icing to have fancy clothes. She would fill the cookie box with the gingerbread people. I remember carrying the box (when I was in 4th grade) to show the 5th grade teachers what she had made. The teachers were fighting over who would get me in their classroom the following year. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      Just as I thought, many other women have used the same idea! Wow! Those must've been some gingerbread men and women! And what an amazingly resourceful mom. You must have been really proud to carry those cookies in each year!

  5. What a great way to make shamrock cookies!

    I saw several cookie cutters while I was at yard sales today, but didn't really look too closely. I used to make butter cookies with cookie cutters, but have not made them for years.

    Yours look terrific and I hope your twins enjoy them and they have a very happy birthday on the 17th! :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Yard sales already! Wow! We still have a couple of months to go through before yard sale weather. Did you find any great buys?

      I'll pass on your good wishes to my daughters -- thank you!

  6. Happy birthday to your daughters :) They also share a birthday with my late grandpa and my cousin. It's a popular day for birthdays :)

    St Patrick's day is not really celebrated here (except for going out and getting drunk in Irish pubs), but I'll be on a fieldtrip with mostly American students, so I'll be interested to see how they celebrate :)

    1. Hi Economies,
      Wow! What a coincidence! I guess with only 365 days of the year, there are bound to be some overlaps in people we know. A lovely older lady from our church, who has been wonderful to my daughters over the years, also has the 17th as her birthday! We plan on attending her open house in the afternoon before doing anything for my two.

      Yeah, the bulk of St. Patrick's Day celebrations here include bar hopping, but we also have a few traditions, like you have to wear green or you'll get pinched, and many families eat corned beef and cabbage along with Irish soda bread, and any and all food products are turned to green for the day. Have a happy St Paddy's with the American students!

  7. I love your homemade shamrock cookie cutter, what a good idea.

    I agree - gingerbread is not just for Christmas! We like to make all kinds of ginger shapes throughout the year - Easter eggs, gingerbread men and women, animals - lots of fun with the kids.

    Gillian x

    1. Hi Gillian,
      Gingerbread cookies are our not-too-sweet cookie, here. It is funny that many folks, here in the US, think of it as just a Christmas cookie. And as you said, the kids love helping in the making. Anything tastes better when you've helped to make it!
      Thanks for dropping by!

  8. hi lili,
    what a great idea......thanks!!!!
    have a nice week,
    love regina


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